Restaurant Review: The Punchbowl, Mayfair in London
Nestled in the very heart of London’s Mayfair is The Punchbowl – a Grade II listed pub, fine dining restaurant and private hire venue.
Originally built in 1729, The Punchbowl undoubtedly made a name for itself in 2008 when film director Guy Ritchie bought the premises. Whilst Ritchie sold the venue in 2013, Pandy, the landlord of 13 years, informs me that the celebrity clientele continue to stop by on a regular basis.
Visiting the first floor restaurant on a Monday evening, the only famous faces on display were those on the wall – art deco canvases of Kate Moss and other London icons adorn the interior of the modern fine dining room, complete with walnut flooring, neutral Marie-Antoinette furnishings and gold décor.
Small yet perfectly formed, the restaurant serves an assortment of ‘small plates’, ‘nibbles’, salads and ‘big plates’ on its a la carte menu. Though slightly confusing and dare I say unnecessary to offer diners both nibbles and small plates, the choices on offer are reasonably priced and provide an excellent range for those wishing to opt for a tapas-style dining experience.
Mains largely follow a tried-and-tested formula of posh pub favourites; ‘The Londoner’ sausage, mash and red onion gravy features alongside fish and chips with crushed peas and tartare sauce. Both choices proved popular amongst my fellow diners.
For starter, I enjoyed a refreshing crab salad with grated Granny Smith apple and frozen peanut powder. The crab tasted fresh with a light texture and was complimented beautifully by the citrus flavour of the apple and the crunchiness of the peanut powder. An unusual combination of ingredients that worked well to awaken my palate without being too heavy – the perfect starter
My dining partner opted for ocean prawns, avocado, gem lettuce and Marie Rose sauce. He received a generous portion of deliciously juicy prawns though a tad too much sauce made the dish slightly overwhelming in taste.
For mains I chose The Punchbowl pie of the day with seasonal vegetables. I was greeted with an uncomplicated, hearty chicken and mushroom pie, perfect for warming the cockles on a cold winter’s evening. The chicken was succulent, the sauce perfectly flavoured without being too rich and the accompanying honey glazed carrots were delicious. A second option was available – fish pie with salmon, hake, haddock and cod, with curry powder, which sounded equally appetizing.
My dining partner went with the 350g South Devon Ribeye steak, triple cooked chips, salad and béarnaise sauce. The chips – which I couldn’t resist myself – were light and fluffy on the inside and fantastically crunchy on the outside. The steak was tender and melted in my mouth with a slightly smokey flavour which I loved.
My dessert – sticky toffee pudding accompanied by date purée, toffee sauce and caramel ice cream – was a delight. Sweet yet not sickly, the date puree lent well to a traditional favourite and the caramel ice cream was smooth and creamy. The pudding itself was sumptuous and moreish, the ideal way to satisfy my sweet tooth and to end our meal.
Our meal was washed down with several glasses of Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc – a pleasantly fresh and full bodied wine hailing from New Zealand.
The staff at The Punchbowl are attentive, knowledgeable and welcoming. They gladly provide a history of what is arguably Mayfair’s most famous boozer, speaking with enthusiasm about the offerings on the menu and a recent refurbishment of the building.
Of course, a visit wouldn’t be complete without a drink in the ground-floor pub. Full of stunning period features and candle-lit enclaves, I can easily see why the celebrity clientele still return and why, on a Monday evening the pub is full. With a mixed bag of affluent locals, City suits, cockney wideboys and out-of-towners, this is the perfect for a casual drink with a side of people watching.
Anyone looking for a quirky venue for a more intimate occasion can hire the exclusive private dining area on the top floor known as The Club. The smart décor of mahogany and chesterfield armchairs compliment the space beautifully and it provides something unique for that birthday get together or corporate outing.
Whilst the food and service at The Punchbowl is well above par, the real charm is its history. I thoroughly recommend sparking up a conversation with the charming landlord, Pandy, a former Soho nightclub entrepeneur and one of the most interesting and sincere people I’ve met. You’ll hear tales of celebrity-filled lock-ins, ghost sightings in the cellar and a royal affair – Wallis Simpson and King Edward used a mansion a stone’s throw from The Punchbowl to meet for secret rendezvous. The site itself is that of the Mayfair Magistrates Court and a wig remains on display where the verdict used to be passed, as a token reminder.
Summing up, it’s safe to say that the verdict is clear on this one – a return visit to The Punchbowl is definitely on the cards.
Address: 41 Farm St, London W1J 5RP / 020 7493 6841